How to Spatchcock a Turkey for Thanksgiving
Rather than roasting a whole bird this Thanksgiving, take the modern route and spatchcock the turkey. This method revolutionized turkey preparation—it cuts the cooking time in half and arguably produces a better bird. Whatever you do, don't let the term spatchcocking intimidate you. It basically means that the backbone is removed from the turkey so the bird lays flat rather than upright during roasting. A flatter turkey means that the drumsticks and thighs are also exposed to direct oven heat, resulting in perfectly juicy breast and thighs and crispy evenly browned skin, which are hard to get when a whole turkey is roasted.
Our step-by-step visual guide starts with a simple four-step method on how to spatchcock a whole bird. There's no need to place a special order with your butcher. It doesn't require any special equipment either—all you need is a pair of kitchen shears and a little elbow grease.
Our fuss-free roasting recipe highlights just how good a perfectly roasted turkey tastes. The bird is seasoned with only the essentials: salt, pepper, and oil. It's cooked to perfection on a rimmed baking sheet instead of on a bulky roasting pan. Best of all, the turkey takes up less vertical space in the oven, translating to room for more sides. For a stunning presentation, we finish with simple yet impressive carving instructions, so you can arrange a gorgeous platter of ready-to-serve turkey. It beats the traditional whole bird any day in both presentation and taste.
Stray from tradition and you might just create a new one in the process. Check out our guide for everything you need to know.
Cut Out the Backbone
Start with the turkey breast-side down. Use poultry shears to cut along both sides of the backbone, beginning at the tail end. If you hit a tough spot, try cutting with just the tip of the shears.
Open the Turkey
Set aside backbone (and giblets) for stock. Take hold of both newly cut edges, and open the turkey. Remove any large pieces of fat. Turn the turkey breast-side up.
Break the Breastbone
Place your hand on one side of the breast, close to the breastbone, and push down firmly until you hear a crack. Repeat on the other side. (For better leverage as you work, stand on a step stool.)
Flatten the Turkey
Pull the thighs outward so the turkey lies flat, with the wings facing inward. Tuck the wing tips under to secure.
Brush with Oil and Roast
Place the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet. Let stand for 30 minutes. Use a basting brush to apply oil mixture. To roast the turkey, follow our recipe.
How to Carve a Spatchcocked Turkey
A spatchcocked turkey requires a slightly different carving technique than a bird cooked the traditional way, but the basic approach remains the same: Remove the legs and wings, and then slice the breast meat.
Cut Legs from Breast
First, with a sharp chef's knife, remove each leg by cutting through the turkey where the thigh connects to the breast.
Separate Drumsticks and Thighs
At the joint of each leg, cut drumstick from thigh. Transfer thighs and drumsticks to a warm platter. Tent with foil.
Cut Wings and Breast
On one side, find the joint connecting wing and breast, and cut through it (not shown). Repeat to cut off other wing. Cut breast meat into two pieces, slicing along either side of breastbone.
Slice Breast Meat
Slice the breast meat across the grain. Arrange on the platter with the dark meat, and add the wings.